Lehighton slips past Susquenita
Lehighton's Mackenzie Hoats battles Maddie Hippman of Susquenita for possession of the ball, while the Indians' Kaia Slaw closes in on the pair. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
WHITEHALL — When a team misses converting on 40 straight penalty corners, it’s obviously a facet of the game that needs improvement.
Lehighton head coach Vanessa Rimbey did just that in practice this week as she looked to find an answer to her team’s slump.
The answer came in the form of two goals off of corners, which was enough to beat Susquenita, 2-1, in the opening round of the PIAA Class 1A field hockey playoffs.
The Indians came out with an aggressive style on Tuesday, and got a quick goal from Gabriela Szozda less than five minutes into the first half.
Karissa Hough put a shot on goal that was blocked by goalie Jordan Mehalick and rebounded back to Szozda, who didn’t miss the opportunity.
“We worked really hard on corners the past couple of days because we knew we really needed to capitalize on them. It’s one of our main ways of scoring, so it was really important that we practiced hard on them,” said Hough.
The celebration didn’t last long because Susquenita picked themselves up and came right back with a goal of its own less than two minutes after Lehighton had grabbed the early lead. Regan Horting found an opening and sneaked the ball past Ashley Wojton, who has taken over in goal after injuries forced her to move there from her midfield spot.
Wojton sure hasn’t looked like a newbie in pads, and made some nice saves when Susquenita got more aggressive in the second half. Late in the game, she twice came out to challenge players and got away with the move.
Rimbey credited the team’s defense with helping Wojton to adjust to her new role and pointed to a play where Kylie Kresge was in the perfect position to sweep a shot away that was behind Wojton.
Susquenita came out firing in the second half, and after getting just one corner in the first half, had four opportunities in the second half. Bu each time, Susquenita came up empty as the Lehighton defense responded.
On their only corner of the second half, Lehighton again struck, this time with Hough getting the ball past Mehalick for what would be the game-winning goal.
“I just tried to find that spot that was open and hit that,” explained Hough. “Because it’s a state game and with both teams being tied 1-1, we both came out really strong. We’re a second-half team and we knew that we were going to come out strong. We just had to work a lot harder in the second half.”
LOVELY WEATHER WE’RE HAVING ... The first half was played in damp conditions, but things took a turn for the worse at halftime. A mist started to fall on the players and fog started to descend on the Whitehall High School Sports Complex. By late in the game, it was difficult to see players and officials on the far side of the field. The second game of the doubleheader, featuring Emmaus against Downingtown West, was actually delayed for 37 minutes when the fog became too thick to continue play.
GET ‘ER DONE ... With how aggressive Lehighton came out to start the game, Rimbey would have liked to see more than just one early goal. “I am disappointed, and that’s kind of how I’ve been feeling through this whole postseason with them. In my opinion, we dominate a lot offensively, especially going into the circle, we just can’t capitalize on our corners and getting it in the net.”
WHO’S NEXT? ... The Blue Knights of Wyoming Seminary downed Bermudian Springs 3-0 in another Class 1A field hockey matchup. The win pits the Knights against Lehighton in Saturday’s quarterfinal contest at a time and place to be determined.